This tight little thriller was written and directed by Todd Robinson, and with a budget of only $18 million, has produced a great looking movie. It’s supposedly based on true events (aren’t they all?) which take place on a Cold War Soviet missile submarine. It’s been awhile since I personally caught a war flick about Russian submarines, in fact, it was the amazing The Hunt for Red October back in 1990. It too dealt with some of the issues Phantom deals with, as it had games of hide and seek to avoid other submarines, their own ones in particular. Todd Robinson has written and directed a fair amount of films but until Phantom, they have all been TV movies, however he did also direct Lonely Hearts, which starred John Travolta.
Ed Harris is Captain Demi, who suffers from epilepsy thanks to a head injury he sustained years before, but he has kept it a secret all this time. He is ordered to return to his submarine, and go on a classified mission. His men were expecting two more weeks ashore but everyone is ordered to return. The KGB turn up to accompany the captain, and they are led by Bruni (David Duchovny). The captain is ordered to perform a task, while out at sea, but he doesn’t trust the KGB officer so refuses. He, and a few of his men, are locked away and now they must find out what the KGB are really up to and then take back the sub.
It was a bit strange, listening to them speak with a strong American accent at first, but it didn’t take long to get used to it. If you think about it, it’s better if they just speak in their own voice instead of fake Russian, as they rarely sound right anyway. The cinematography was something I liked as it was handle very well. There are only so many places you can position yourself on a submarine, but it was handle well and looked great. There was even some lens flare, in keeping with the latest filming fashion. The characters were a strong point as they had enough depth to keep you interested. Ed Harris performed brilliantly, in his own, understated way, and David Duchovny played his part, as the KGB man with the right amount of conviction. Duchovny isn’t exactly know as a passionate actor and this role suited his style perfectly. I’m a big fan of William Fichtner (Alex) but he didn’t really get a chance to do his thing.
As a thriller this movie worked extremely well, the characters were good, the writing was good, and it has been a while since we had a movie like this so it should do well. I most definitely liked it.
Ed’s Grade: B
Review by Ed Blackadder